Monday, September 14, 2009

The Funny Things Humans Do

Biologically speaking, humans are a remarkable, and quirky, species. The New Scientist magazine has published a list of the odd things we do everyday that don’t make a lot of sense. With all the scientific advancement, you’d think we know why we do the funny things we do. But why do we create art, or dream, or pick our noses?

Here a list from the magazine of our quirky traits and why they think we do them:

  1. Blushing: some think it may help diffuse confrontation or foster intimacy by revealing weakness.
  2. Laughter: a 10-year study confounded our reasons for laughing, saying that more laughter is produced by banal comments than jokes.
  3. Kissing: not all human societies do it. Theorists say it’s associated with memories of breastfeeding and that ancient humans weaned their children by feeding them from their mouths, reinforcing a link between sharing saliva and pleasure.
  4. Dreaming: recognized to help us process emotions, but why we see such bizarre visions has not been properly explained.
  5. Superstition: it makes no evolutionary sense, and it seems beneficial not to dismiss a lion's rustle in the grass as a gust of wind. Religion taps into this vein.
  6. Picking your nose: why do a quarter of teenagers pick and ingest “nasal detritus” on average four times a day? Maybe it boosts the immune system. Yeah, right.
  7. Adolescence: no other species undergoes the dramatic, unpredictable teenage years, which John Hughes portrayed so well in his films. Some say it helps our brain reorganize before adulthood or that it allows experimentation before the responsibility of later years.
  8. Altruism: giving things away with no certain reward is odd in evolutionary terms. It may help with group bonding or simply give pleasure.
  9. Art: painting, dance, sculpture and music, none of it shows one’s mating potential. However, it could also be a tool for spreading knowledge or sharing experience.
  10. Body hair: fine hair on the body and thick hair on the genitals is the opposite of what occurs in primates. Explanations include its role in radiating scent, providing warmth or even protecting from chafing.
What would you add to this list? I’d have to add: flying with US air carriers.